Marx believed that capitalism was doomed by its inherent contradictions, and that it would inevitably collapse—to he replaced by the next stage on the ladder leading to the socialist Utopia.
Lenin also believed that capitalism was doomed by its inherent contradictions, and would inevitably collapse. But just to be on the safe side, he sought to mobilize the working class, in alliance with other key elements in political society, both to hasten the collapse and to ensimre that the result conformed with his interpretation of the proletarian state. Unlike many other socialists at the time, Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent both upon a movement’s ability to create a focused political coalition and upon its success in isolating and weakening its opponents.
As we contemplate basic reform of the Social Security system, we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy. Many critics of the present system believe, as Marx and Lenin did of capitalism, that the system’s days are numbered because of its contradictory objectives of attempting to provide both welfare and insurance. All that really needs to be done, they contend, is to point out these inherent flaws to the taxpayers and to show them that Social Security would be vastly improved if it were restructured into a predominantly private system. Convinced by the undeniable facts and logic, individuals supposedly would then rise up and demand that their representatives make the appropriate reforms.
While this may indeed happen, the public’s reaction last year against politicians who simply noted the deep problems of the system, and the absence of even a recognition of the underlying problems during this spring’s Social Security “reform,” suggest that it will be a long time before citizen indignation will cause radical change to take place. Therefore, if we are to achieve basic changes in the system, we must first prepare the political ground so that the fiasco of the last 18 months is not repeated.
First, we must recognize that there is a firm coalition behind the present Social Security system, and that this coalition has been very effective in winning political concessions for many years. Before Social Security can be reformed, we must begin to divide this coalition and cast doubt on the picture of reality it presents to the general public.
Second, we must recognize that we need more than a manifesto—even one as cogent and persuasive as that provided by Peter Ferrara. What we must do is construct a coalition around the Ferrara plan, a coalition that will gain directly from its implementation. That coalition should consist of not only those who will reap benefits from the IRA-based private system Ferrara has proposed but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public.
As we construct and consolidate this coalition, we must press for modest changes in the laws and regulations designed to make private pension options more attractive, and we must expose the fundamental flaws and contradictions in the existing system. In so doing, we will strengthen the coalition for privatizing Social Security and we will weaken the coalition for retaining or expanding the current system. By approaching the problem in this way, we may be ready for the next crisis in Social Security—ready with a strong coalition for change, a weakened coalition supporting the current system, and a general public familiar with the private-sector option.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Butler and Germanis on Social Security in 1983
Social Security Reform: Achieving a Leninist Strategy